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Discipline, Martial Arts, Karate

Active children - karate fun

Martial Arts Discipline

Old school martial arts training, is all about discipline, repetition and listening to commands and doing what you’re told. And did I say, repetition? Doing it repeatedly until it looks perfect. When I started as an assistant children’s karate teacher, I remember my first instructor session vividly.

I watched the chief instructor gather the children in rows in front of him; The kids were sitting down, listening intently, while sensei explained the rules of the school. Sensei was on his knees, in seiza and beside him was a shinai, the kendo weapon, a bamboo sword. The last statement of his speech really sticks with me, “Your parents have signed a form that says I can hit you if you don’t do what I tell you to do.” he then picked up the shinai and hit it into his hand three times. As I looked out at the children, I saw faces of fear. I felt sure they would remember this speech for a long time.

When I taught some classes myself, if ever there were issues with children not listening or getting too wild, I would just have to mention sensei’s name and everything was calm and under control once again. If that didn’t work asking them to go visit sensei in his office would surly do the trick.

Parents have different reasons for sending children to martial arts training and one of them is definitely about discipline. It leaves the level of discipline up to the head instructor. The old school style was martial discipline. Or at least putting the fear of being physically punished into the children so they would do what we commanded.

Many years passed, and I followed the same method of teaching, repetition and rigid discipline. When I had my dojo, I refused to teach children. For me martial arts is a way of life, a serious endeavour and I did not want to force or coarse children into training.

A few years ago I worked for a local community centre and taught children karate. The facility required that I take a course on teaching children, created by the parks and recreation department of Toronto. With an open mind, I took up for the challenge and registered for the course. Principles of Healthy Child Development, also known as High Five, based on five principles that children require for healthy development in recreational activities. Those principles are; A caring adult, play, friends, inclusion and mastery.

Now applying what I had learnt in that course to karate was a challenge for me.  Learning karate is all about learning new skills and mastering them so the mastery part was easy. The caring adult was possible as I really have high hopes for children taking part in martial arts and I will support them completely. Making friends and inclusion are all things that could easily be added to the karate program. The main challenge for me was the play part. How do you make karate about play and fun? I spoke to  professional martial artist, friend and karate master, Scott Langley, author of best-selling books on karate life, Karate Stupid, Karate Clever and Shu-Ha-Ri. He provided me with some great tips that I have incorporated into my style of teaching children.

Creating teams and setting up team challenges that may or may not be karate inspired are one thing that Scott shared with me. Another idea he shared and that I use consistently is teaching two or three techniques in a class. I have found other reference material to add to my teaching, and I have asked other karate teachers to share activities they incorporate in their children’s classes. Ideas like, Samurai’s and Ninjas, or here, there and everywhere and the always popular, team relay races. I have a list of approximately fifty different activities to choose from, some work and some don’t. The key is to keep it flowing and to keep it fun. 

Most parents who witness my karate classes get what I’m doing. They understand that children require play, that is a kids number one job. To play and to have fun. I am happy that I have retention in my classes, the same students are coming back session after session. My hope is that karate will be something they can do for life. Karate – the path to a way of life that is rewarding and fulfilling. And fun.

Copyright © 2019 Paul Yanuziello, All rights reserved.